I’m sitting at Barnes and Noble at The Summit shopping center in Birmingham while my daughter is watching Wonder Woman with a friend at the movie theater here. I thought about going home and coming back later to pick her up when the movie is over, but I chose alone time with my computer and a cup of mediocre decaf instead. The traffic on Highway 280 is especially bad this time of day. And time by myself is always a good option.

There are three (maybe) college students—a young woman and two young men—at the table across from me talking about a recent game of Truth or Dare they participated in where there were several kisses between several individuals. She’s drinking a chocolate-y frappuccino, pausing occasionally to scoop up bites of whipped cream the way my daughter does. She has gold Ray Bans on top of her head full of straight golden hair. She’s bubbly and talkative and seems to be enjoying her spot in the middle of the two guys. When she walks across the cafe to grab a couple of napkins, the two guys lean into each other and whisper. Surely it’s about her. One of them might have a crush on her. Maybe they both have a crush on her. When she returns to their table, they part like the Red Sea and clear a space for her to sit back down between them.

The writer in me wants to keep paying attention to the trio. Maybe their conversation will provide great material for a novel. Or an essay. (Probably an essay.) Maybe I’ll be entertained or educated or inspired. Maybe I’ll hear some juicy bits of gossip about people half my age I’ve never met and will never meet. Oh, the possibilities.

Instead of continuing to focus on them, I turn my mind away, put my earbuds in my ears and begin listening to classical music. I decide to drown out the laughter and conversation from their table and pass on whatever I might have gleaned had I kept eavesdropping.

I’ve been trying to drown out a lot of extraneous chatter lately. My goal isn’t to avoid those around me. My goal is to be present to myself—to my body’s signals and to the thoughts that scamper through my mind. One thing my health coach Isabel talks about a lot is how operating under a diet mentality isn’t compatible with living in the present moment because when we’re dieting we are trying to control the future—we’re trying to manipulate our bodies into a certain future size. The problem is, we really have no control over the future. We are only guaranteed this moment. And this one. So grasping for something that may or may not happen in the future steals us away from the present.

This language made sense to me immediately. I first learned about the idea of attentive presence as a young mom. I wanted to see and know my children instead of letting them exist as accessories to my life. I wanted to have conversations with them and respect them as unique individuals made in the image of God. I wanted to encourage their curiosity, help them explore the world, and watch their God-given gifts develop as they became more of who He created them to be. And I couldn’t do any of this without seeing them or knowing them. I experienced the fruit of intentional presence to my children (and to others and to God) and continue to experience that fruit today when I put my phone or book down and pay attention to those around me. But Isabel has helped me see I haven’t been very good at being present to myself. I’ve become adept at floating through each day without connecting to myself. It’s like an unfortunate magic trick I wish I could ruin. I want a precocious, perceptive child from the audience to run up to my table of card tricks and expose the reality of the situation to the rest of the onlookers. I’m not a magician. I’m just really good at hiding certain things.

So, as I try to slow down and pay more attention to the messages sent by my body, my mind, and my soul, I realize being in the moment with myself requires being in the moment with grace, too.  I don’t think I can bear it any other way. I keep looking for where the Gospel intersects with issues related to food and body image, and I might have discovered a portion of the answer. Grace meets me in the present moment when I’m tired of trying to figure out how and why I got to where I am. Grace meets me in the present moment when I’m hungry, but for some reason am unable to determine what I’m craving or what food I need or want. Grace meets me in the present moment when I text my best friend about an unfortunate interaction with a clueless healthcare provider and she texts back with words that assure me she sees me and knows me. Maybe this is part of what Jesus meant when He said we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow and should instead seek His kingdom and His righteousness. His kingdom is one of grace poured out to His children because of Jesus’ righteousness. It’s one where I’m seen and known by my Heavenly Father who offers me Himself, moment by moment, regardless of whether I’m paying attention or not.

I’m posting about this new journey toward freedom and health every three or four weeks here at Mockingbird. I hope you join me and read along as I process what it might look like to live in light of the gospel in areas connected to food and my body. These are issues many people struggle with and I pray Jesus shows us Himself, His way, and His truth. (I’m also starting a weekly newsletter devoted to this new endeavor. You can sign up for it here.)

You can read Part One here.